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J-Post: Ofra rabbi permits Shabbat construction

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In a dramatic halachic ruling, the rabbi of Ofra, a settlement in the West Bank northeast of Ramallah, has ruled that Palestinian construction workers can build houses in the settlement on Shabbat, in order to “establish facts on the ground” ahead of a Supreme Court review of petitions against building in the settlement submitted by human rights groups Yesh Din and B’Tselem, Army Radio reported early Thursday morning.

The ruling became effective last Saturday and also on Shavuot, which fell on Monday this week. Avi Gisser, the rabbi of Ofra, made the decision after consulting residents of Ofra. The Supreme Court discussion is slated for Sunday.

Yesh Din and B’Tselem seek to halt the building of nine housing units. In a petition against the defense minister and the military’s OC Central Command, the two organizations, acting on behalf of five Palestinians who claim ownership of the land where the housing units are being built, request to implement demolition orders issued in the past as well as prevent the houses from being occupied and hooked up to electricity, sewage and water, at least until the court rules on the matter.

The petitioners charged that the Civil Administration had admitted to them that the construction was illegal and that it had issued stop-work and demolition orders against the project last year.

According to the petitioners, in addition to the nine houses, work is being done to level Palestinian-owned land for the construction of an additional 15 to 20 units in the same area.

Following the petitions, residents in Ofra held an emergency meeting where they decided to allow continuing construction on Shabbat, and the matter was announced to the community during Friday prayers. Residents praying in the synagogue were asked to show tolerance towards the construction workers.

Dan Izenberg contributed to this report